Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Lots-of-Guns-300x200I have posted several blogs regarding the legal considerations surrounding firearms. The first post related to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (2005), et seq., (“PLCAA”), which prohibits lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers, except under very limited circumstances. I also wrote about the surviving families of the Sandy Hook massacre’s lawsuit against Remington Arms Co., under PLCAA, based upon violation of a state consumer protection law. More recently, I wrote about the City of Kansas City’s lawsuit against a gun manufacturer, Jiménez Arms, and several gun dealers arising out of a gun trafficking ring. This blog explores that trafficking ring, how it worked, and what damage it caused before it collapsed with the arrest of the main perpetrator, James Samuels, on October 4, 2018.

Samuels, a captain with the Kansas City fire department illegally traded in arms from 2013 to 2018. Domestic gun traffickers usually sell to two types of clients. First, they sell firearms to “prohibited persons,” which are individuals restricted from owning or possession a firearm. Under federal law, anyone convicted of a felony is permanently banned from owning or possessing a gun. This leads to the second reason gun traffickers exist. The guns they sell will not be traceable to the purchaser, as the transaction is not recorded. Much of the time, the gun has been reported stolen, so it has no owner. A felon that wants to have a firearm can buy that gun from a trafficker, and when if it is used in the commission of crime, it can be disposed of without concern of being identified through its registration.

On November 22, 2013, Samuels placed a call to Jiménez Arms, a gun manufacturer with the reputation for building very cheap pistols, ideal for disposal after committing a crime. He told the company contact that he was a firefighter but worked part-time at Conceal & Carry (C&C), a gun dealer in Kansas City. The manufacturer received confirmation from C&C that Samuels in-fact worked for the dealer. As a consequence, it gave Samuels permission to purchase guns.

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As I explored in a previous blog, the Protection of Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (2005), et seq., (“PLCAA”) has shielded gun manufacturers from suit since its enactment in 2005. The law bars any civil liability action against a firearms dealer or manufacturer, except for certain limited exceptions. My previous blog revolved around the parents of the victims killed in the Sandy Hook massacre, who survived summary judgment on a motion conceived under PLCAA filed by the defendant, Remington Arms Company. Now, the city of Kansas City is bringing a claim against a manufacturer and several firearms dealers, which may further chip away at the Act’s once impenetrable protection.

PLCAA’s protection is broad. 1515 U.S.C. § 7902 provides that “[a] qualified civil liability action may not be brought in any Federal or State court” against a firearms manufacturer or dealer. The definition of a qualified civil liability action is explored in § 7902, which defines the term broadly, encompassing ostensibly all civil claims against licensed gun dealers and manufacturers. However, § 7903(A) identifies certain claims that will not be considered a qualified action.

Contractual disputes or claims for breach of warranty are not qualified actions. § 7903(5)(A)(iv). Neither are claims related to defective design or manufacture of a firearm. § 7903(5)(A)(v). Claims arising out of negligent entrustment, where a manufacturer or a dealer puts a firearm into the hands of someone likely to injure themselves or others, are permitted. § 7903(5)(A)(ii; § 7903(5)(B). Similarly, if a manufacturer or dealer knowingly provides a gun to a person intending to commit a crime of violence or engage in drug trafficking, immunity from suit is not available. § 7903(5)(A)(i).

pistol-and-bullets-300x200In 2005, President George W. Bush signed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (2005), et seq., (“PLCAA”)into effect. The PLCAA prevents gun manufacturers and dealers from being sued in relationship to the production and/or sale of firearms, subject to a few exceptions. Historically, these exceptions have been construed narrowly, and as a consequence, manufacturers and dealers have been immune to most types of lawsuits.

The PLCAA permits certain commercial suits, such as a contractual dispute or a claim for breach of warranty. § 7903(5)(A)(iv). Further, immunity does not extend to the defective design or manufacture of a firearm. § 7903(5)(A)(v). Gun manufacturers are subject to the same rules as any other manufacturer of consumer goods. If a manufacturer places a firearm into the stream of commerce which malfunctions due to defective parts or improper assembly, or if it was designed in a dangerous manner and poses an unreasonable danger when operated, the manufacturer can be held liable for resulting injury.

Other exceptions apply when dealers provide firearms to people who should not have one in their possession. One such exception involves negligent entrustment. § 7903(5)(A)(ii). The PLCAA defines negligent entrustment as the act of supplying a firearm to someone the seller knew, or should have known, would likely injure others with the gun. § 7903(5)(B). Similarly, if a dealer knowingly provides a gun to a person intending to commit a crime of violence or engage in drug trafficking, the dealer is susceptible to suit. § 7903(5)(A)(i).

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photo credit: Shutterstock.com/Nirat.pix

In a recent Michigan slip-and-fall case, a state appellate court considered whether a plaintiff’s amended complaint adding a nonparty at fault relates back to the original filing. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s amended complaint did relate back to the original filing date of the complaint. Thus, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s case was time-barred.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff purchased a new refrigerator at Best Buy. Evidently, the plaintiff’s new refrigerator unexpectedly sprayed water out of its dispenser onto the floor, causing the plaintiff to slip and fall. The plaintiff filed a claim against Best Buy, which sold and installed the plaintiff’s fridge, alleging negligence, breach of warranty, and breach of contract. Best Buy filed a notice identifying Samsung as a nonparty at fault, as the fridge’s manufacturer. Essentially, Best Buy was claiming that Samsung should be a party to the lawsuit because Samsung was likely at fault for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff then amended her complaint, adding a claim against Samsung.

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Photo Credit: BLACKWHITEPAILYN / Shutterstock.com

There are some sports that are known to have a significant risk of injury, such as skiing or rock climbing. Under the tort law theory of inherent risk, people who voluntarily engage in these sports cannot hold anyone else accountable for injuries caused by the sport itself unless the negligence rises to a certain level. In other words, if you go skiing and break your leg, unless the owners of the ski resort were extremely negligent, you will probably not be able to sue them for damages. Without this heightened negligence standard for inherent risk, no ski resorts could operate because the costs would be prohibitive.

Facts of This Case

In a procedurally complicated opinion, the Michigan Court of Appeals attempted to clarify whether the “parked vehicle exception” applied to injury during maintenance of the vehicle. In order to collect damages from an automobile insurer, the vehicle must be involved in the injury. This may seem straightforward and obvious, but as often happens with the law, it is not. Michigan law appears to hold that auto insurers do not have to pay for injuries when the vehicle is parked. However, the law also seems to say that insurance will cover injuries that occur during vehicle maintenance. This case looks at these potentially contradictory aspects of the law and discusses how the law should be applied in the instant case and cases with similar facts. While a case may seem simple at first, that is not always the reality. That is why if you are injured in any kind of accident, you should consult an experienced Michigan personal injury attorney as soon as possible. They can help frame and guide your case in a way that leads to the best results.

Facts of the Case

Both parties agreed on the basic facts of the case. A woman was using the vehicle provided by her employer. She stopped at a self-serve carwash to wash it, and as she was washing it she slipped and fell on ice. No one knows whether the ice was created by the water she was using to wash the vehicle, or if it was already on the ground. She attempted to recover damages from the insurer her employer used. It refused to pay for the injuries. The insurance company argued that the case should be dismissed because the injury just happened to occur near the employer’s car and the law excepts insurers from being responsible for accidents when the car is parked. Conversely, the injured party argued that since her injuries occurred during the maintenance of the car, under statutory and case law she is still entitled to payment from the insurance company. The insurance company moved for summary judgment, which would dismiss the case. The court found for the plaintiff and allowed the case to continue for the reasons explained below.

The defendant appealed from a judgment entered after a jury verdict in a Michigan premises liability action. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s denial of the defendant’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The appeals court also affirmed the trial judge’s denial of the defendant’s motion for a new trial as to damages with the exception of those based upon past and future medical expenses.While shopping at the defendant’s store, the plaintiff asked for assistance with some folding metal chairs that were located on a top shelf. An employee attempted to manipulate that stack of chairs, and they fell from the top shelf onto the plaintiff’s head. The plaintiff sued the defendant’s corporation, which, though it contested fault, did not contest that if the jury found its employee at fault, it would be liable under respondeat superior.

On appeal, the defendant first contended that the trial court erred by denying its motion for a directed verdict, in which it claimed that it had no duty to the plaintiff, based on the open and obvious danger doctrine. The appeals court agreed with the trial court that this motion was properly denied on both procedural and substantive grounds.

The appeals court concluded that the defendant waived any claim that the action did not sound in negligence. Early in the case, the trial court issued an order providing that once a formal Joint Final Pretrial Order (JFPO) is filed, it supersedes previous pleadings and orders and controls the trial proceedings. It further provided that the JFPO shall contain a concise statement of a defendant’s defenses and cross-claims, including legal theories. A JFPO was presented to the court by the parties and entered as an order. Under the heading “Defendant’s Claims,” the defendant listed multiple defenses but included no reference to premises liability or a defense that the plaintiff’s injury was caused by an open and obvious condition. Given the court’s pre-trial orders and the JFPO to which defense counsel stipulated, the defendant waived this argument.

A defendant appealed an August 17, 2016 order denying his motion for summary disposition in an action arising out of injuries sustained by the plaintiff when he was riding his motorcycle, and a gas main exploded. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the Michigan motorcycle accident case for the entry of an order awarding summary disposition in favor of the defendant.On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion for summary disposition, arguing that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by governmental immunity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA), and there was no question of fact regarding whether he acted in a grossly negligent manner.

Except under certain circumstances, the GTLA provides immunity to governmental employees from tort liability. For tort claims involving alleged negligence, lower-level governmental employees such as the defendant are entitled to immunity if the following three criteria are met:  (1) they are acting or reasonably believe they are acting within the scope of their authority, (2) they are engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function, and (3) their conduct does not amount to gross negligence that is the proximate cause of the injury or damage. In this case, the plaintiff did not dispute that the defendant was acting within the scope of his authority, or that the defendant was engaged in the exercise or discharge of a government function. The central issue before the appeals court therefore was whether there was a question of fact regarding whether the defendant’s conduct amounted to gross negligence.

Gross negligence is defined by the GTLA as conduct reckless enough to demonstrate a substantial lack of concern for whether an injury results. Simply alleging that an actor could have done more is insufficient, since a claim can always be made that extra precautions could have influenced the result. Instead, gross negligence suggests almost a willful disregard of precautions to attend to safety and a disregard for substantial risks. It is as though, if an observer watched the actor, he could reasonably conclude that the actor did not care about the safety of those in his charge. The determination of whether a governmental employee’s conduct constituted gross negligence that proximately caused the complained-of injury under the GTLA is generally a question of fact, but, if reasonable minds could not differ, a court may grant summary disposition.

A Michigan man has filed suit against an Atlanta-based hip-hop duo for hitting his nose with a water bottle during a show. Court documents signify that the plaintiff–who has not been identified–attended a show in October 2016, at which the rappers recklessly launched full water bottles into the audience. One hit the plaintiff directly in the face, allegedly leaving him with a migraine and permanent scarring.The plaintiff claimed the water bottle was catapulted forcefully enough to rip off a “chunk of his face.” He was sent via ambulance to the hospital, where they determined that he would be permanently disfigured and scarred. He filed suit for assault, battery, and negligence. He is seeking damages for medical fees, as well as punitive damages.

This isn’t the only lawsuit of its kind. Also this month, one of Katy Perry’s stagehands claimed she lost a toe while working on Perry’s tour. Christina Fish was hired for Perry’s 2014 international tour. At a North Carolina show, a wall Fish was asked to move got stuck and rolled over her foot. Her toe allegedly became gangrenous and eventually needed to be amputated. Fish is suing Perry, Live Nation, and several production companies for damages.

Likewise, a woman who was allegedly raped at a Future and Drake concert last year is suing both rappers (among other defendants) for $25 million. She claims the defendants’ negligence caused the rape. According to the federal lawsuit, the woman (identified as Jane Doe) claimed that during an August 2016 concert in Nashville, she was approached by a man associated with the venue who offered to take her backstage. As the woman followed the man backstage, the lawsuit claimed, he suddenly pushed her to the ground and “violently assaulted her, shattering her cell phone and causing severe physical and psychological injury.” The lawsuit claims that her attacker had a public history of assault, and therefore the defendants should have known that employing him could “pose unreasonable risk to others.”

A plaintiff was stopped on I-94 in Michigan when her vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by an FBI agent. The plaintiff asserted that the impact caused or exacerbated neck and back injuries and sued the federal government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. The defendant moved for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan granted in part and denied in part.In this Michigan car accident case, the district court explained, the accident occurred on a Michigan highway, and therefore, Michigan law governed the court’s determination of liability and damages. Under Michigan’s No-Fault Act, “tort liability for non-economic loss arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of a qualifying motor vehicle is limited to a list of enumerated circumstances.”

The appeals court explained that the defendant discharged their initial summary-judgment burden of showing that the accident was not the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s spinal issues.

First, it was undisputed that the plaintiff experienced neck and back issues prior to the accident. Second, her post-accident care supported the defendant’s causation position. She did not seek medical attention immediately following the accident, but she did go to the emergency room with neck, thoracic spine, and lumbar spine pain on the following evening. But she also refused pain medication at this time, and the ER doctor noted that while she had some neck tenderness, she had a normal range of motion in her back and musculoskeletal system. Third, the defendant’s experts concluded that the plaintiff’s spinal issues were not caused by the accident.

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